Letter to the Editor

BY DI READERS | JANUARY 18, 2011 7:10 AM

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Passenger rail project still valuable

The Iowa City-Chicago passenger rail project is extremely significant. Since the federal government announced in October that it would award $250 million in support of the project, the response I have seen and heard from fellow students, faculty and staff, and business and community leaders has been overwhelmingly positive.

Passenger rail is attractive to students for a variety of reasons. It will provide another mode of transportation for University of Iowa students who are not natives of Iowa City, such as the large undergraduate population from Illinois. By reducing the number of students on the road traveling to and from their hometowns, passenger rail provides them with an extremely safe and energy-efficient travel option. Moreover, rail can also transport international students who land at O’Hare Airport in Chicago and must find transportation to the university.

Passenger rail is also an option for family and friends who visit UI students in Iowa City. I can envision many alumni and Hawkeye parents catching the train from the Chicago area to watch a football game at Kinnick Stadium during the fall. University faculty and staff who may make day trips to Chicago will be able to make productive use of their time on board as they travel.

Finally, it is important to note that Amtrak achieved its highest ridership to date — with more than 28.7 million riders — in fiscal 2010. According to the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce, the Chicago-Quincy line, a similar corridor route including a stop at Western Illinois University, has experienced a five-year increase in ridership of 77 percent with an average annual increase of 15 percent.

There are many advantages of passenger rail from Iowa City to Chicago, and they have been widely recognized by many parties, chief among them students. I hope that Gov. Terry Brandstad and the Iowa Legislature will recognize the significance of rail for both the UI and the state.

John Rigby
University of Iowa Student Government

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